First, we have to clarify something. Joe Rippey isn't just a bartender. He's the owner of the Vine Wine Room (12420 Memorial Drive), and we were lucky to catch him working behind the bar when we visited.
Rippey might have the best job in the world. For the last four and a half years, he's spent his days in his eclectic wine bar drinking wine and chatting with regulars -- or, should we say, friends. The Vine Wine Room has a strong base of regulars that come multiple times a week and attend all its events. "You have to do what you love," he says. "I've run a lot of successful businesses for other people over the years, but I wanted to run my own. I was always talking about a wine bar, so my wife told me to either open one or stop talking about it."
The Vine Wine Room isn't your Washington Avenue wine bar. Don't expect to find overly dressed twenty-somethings lounging on the couches late into the night or that rowdy two a.m. group that's had one too many glasses of Chardonnay. "Vine Wine Room is a warm neighborhood place," Rippey says. "We wanted to make this quaint shopping center a destination place for people in the neighborhood." There used to be a sign on the door that read "No Wine Snobs Allowed."
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The wine bar's actual motto is "unique wines from everywhere." "We focus on small production, boutique wineries," says Rippey. "The only downside is that our selections change frequently, so we may not have the same wines from month to month."
On our visit, he suggested we try the Evergreen Vineyards Spruce Goose Pinot Noir from Oregon, which turned out to be a delicious recommendation. Plus, it has a fun back-story, since it's named after Howard Hughes's famous flying boat.
Rippey is also part owner of Two Saints Restaurant a few doors down. When the space opened up, Rippey and his business partner Justin Gasper jumped on the opportunity. "We have a great working relationship," he says. "Justin is great at handling the back of the house, and I handle the front." Two Saints is BYOB, so you can either pick up a bottle from the Vine Wine Room on your way, or they will bring it to you at your table.
Check back soon for our interview with Chef Jeremy Massudi of Two Saints.